Day Two: The Initiations of ‘Knowing One Frees All’
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
21 December, 2014
At 5.30am His Holiness’ car left Tergar Monastery, its headlights cutting through the early morning fog, as he made his way to the Monlam Pavilion to begin the preparations for this morning’ s three empowerments. Two hours later, there was still a distinct chill in the air as monastics and laypeople, wrapped up warm in jackets, scarves and woollen hats, waited patiently to pass through security control into the pavilion.
On the stage inside the pavilion, the ritual master put the finishing touches to the golden mandala shrine, checking that all the sacred objects necessary for the morning’s three empowerments—White Tara with Retinue, Tara of the Acacia Forest, and Single Tara Who Shakes the Three Worlds— were ready. Inside the shrine, as if suspended, an opaque crystal Tara rested on a wooden dais, an ornate white torma standing before her. This torma will be used for all the Tara empowerments,but each session the offerings and ornaments are changed to reflect that session’s deity. Clouds of purifying incense drifted across the stage from a censer swung steadily by a young monk. Leaving the stage, he began the task of purifying the huge pavilion itself, weaving his way carefully between the congregation already seated, awaiting the Karmapa.
At 8.00am promptly, the chant masters began the recitation of the “Praises of Twenty-One Taras”.
The two heart sons, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche were already seated on raised seats to the left-hand side of the magnificent black and gold throne. During each stage of the empowerments they would represent everyone and receive the three aspects of body, speech and mind directly from the ritual master. At the conclusion of each empowerment, however, His Holiness descended from the throne in order to give the final torma initiation for each deity directly from his own hands to his two heart sons, to the Rinpoches and tulkus sitting behind them, and to the two translators.
After the Gyalwang Karmapa arrived, the recitation of the “Praises” continued for a few minutes more, and then, on a signal from His Holiness, the assembly rose as one to prostrate and recite the refuge prayers, followed by the Vajradhara Lineage Prayer.
- White Tara with Retinue
First, His Holiness bestowed the body, speech and mind blessing empowerment of White Tara with Large Retinue, according to the tradition of the Sixth Karmapa Thongwa Dönden, which had been passed down unbroken until the time of 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje when it became part of the Karma Kamtsang lineage of realisation.
His Holiness explained that there are many forms of Tara in the activity tantras, but this form includes all aspects of Tara’s body speech and mind. Tara in her essence is non-arising, she is the Prajnaparamita, the mother of all the buddhas of the three times. Therefore, it is difficult to say to which tantra she belongs. However, the great masters of the past have said that she is the mother of the Lotus family in the kriya tantra. Of all the yidam deities of the kriya tantra she is considered the greatest because:
- She can bestow the four different types of activities: pacifying, increasing, magnetizing and subjugating.
- Through her practice we can accomplish the eight mundane siddhis: clairvoyance, clairaudience, flying in the sky, becoming invisible, everlasting youth, or powers of transmutation, as well as the supreme accomplishment.
- She is able to dispel the eight external and internal dangers: floods and attachment, fire and anger, elephants and ignorance, snakes and jealousy, lions and pride, imprisonment and miserliness, thieves and wrong views, ghosts and doubt.
In the sadhana which Karmapa Thongwa Dönden wrote, White Tara is surrounded by a retinue of all the Taras of the different families. Consequently, by receiving this empowerment, you receive an empowerment for all the forms of Tara, His Holiness explained.
Although it is possible to give this empowerment in summary, he continued, this would break the lineage, so he read it exactly from the empowerment text. The initiation began with refuge and generation of bodhichitta, echoing what His Holiness the Sakya Trizin had told the assembly the day before,that the motivation for receiving empowerments should be bodhichitta, concern for the welfare of all sentient beings, and not any concerns for this life or future lives.
The section concluded with a thanksgiving mandala offering which also served as a request mandala for the next initiation.
- Green Tara of the Acacia Forest with Five Deities
His Holiness explained that Tara arose from the tears of the noble Avalokiteshvara who was distraught at the suffering of sentient beings, because, however many activities he performed, the number of beings in samsara was never reduced. As two of these tears fell on the ground, one became White Tara and one became Green Tara. The two Taras promised to help him perform his activities to benefit sentient beings. So, it is said that there are as many emanations of Tara as forms of Avalokiteshvara benefitting beings.
There are several traditions of Tara. This one comes from the Indian scholar Suryagupta who composed a collection of 21 names of Tara, 21 forms and 21 mandalas. In this tradition Tara belongs to the mother tantra of the unexcelled yoga tantra.
The tradition of Green Tara of the Acacia Forest comes from Nagarjuna, who was meditating in an acacia forest when Tara appeared to him. He requested Tara to benefit sentient beings and she agreed. He built a temple for her there which she herself blessed and consecrated. Consequently, all those who practised there were able to achieve the ordinary siddhis very quickly. Out of compassion for people who lived far away from the sacred place, Nagarjuna composed the sadhana of Green Tara of the Acacia Forest.
Later this tradition was passed down to the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, and became one of his five sets of five meditational deities. The five sets were: Tara, Hayagriva, Vajravarahi, Chakrasamvara and Hevajra. The transmission lineage for all except the last one are still extant in the Kamtsang tradition. This tantra has always held a special place in the Kamtsang Kagyu tradition; it was transmitted from Nagarjuna, through one of his four principle disciples, Nagabodhi, in an unbroken transmission until it became part of the Kamtsang lineage of realisation at the time of Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje.
In an interesting aside, His Holiness mentioned that there are two sources which support the claim that Nagabodhi lived for an exceptionally long time. One comes from the account of the Chinese translatorXuanzang, who visited South India in the seventh century and describes meeting Nagabodhi who was extremely old by then and living in a forest. The other tells of an Indian master who was sent to study with Nagabodhi because he was a direct disciple of Nagarjuna.
- Single Tara Who Shakes the Three Worlds
His Holiness began with a short description and history. This form of Tara has four faces and eight arms. It is a mother tantra within the Lotus family of kriya tantra. The practice comes from the tantra known as “The One Hundred and Eight Names of Tara” which was taught by Chenresig on the Potala Hill. The Indian master Chandragomin composed a sadhana for each of the 108 names. (He was called ‘chandra’ because of a moon-shaped birthmark on his forehead, and ‘gomin’ because he held strict upasaka vows.) A renowned scholar who received blessings directly from Tara, he received this tantra directly from her, and the lineage was passed down unbroken until it finally entered the Karma Kamtsang tradition through the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje.
His Holiness then gave the empowerment.
As if by the blessing of Tara, the sun finally broke through the mist at 10.30am, and the pavilion began to warm up slowly.
- Single Kurukulla
During the afternoon session, for the first time, illustrations of each deity were posted on two huge video screens.
The Lady Kurukulla is often known as Red Tara. Four-armed and red in colour, she is one of the Three Red Deities for achieving the ordinary siddhis.
His Holiness explained that this yidam deity has a very complex lineage history. One tradition tells how, in olden times, there was a King who had many wives. There was one he never visited. Therefore, she sent her maidservant to the market to find a way to attract the king. In the market the girl encountered a dark-red woman who said she could help. The dark-red woman gave the servant a special pill, and told her that anyone who ate the pill would fall in love with her. However, when the servant delivered the pill to the queen, the queen thought it might be harmful so she didn’t give it to the king. Instead she threw it into a pond where a naga ate it. The naga transformed himself into the likeness of the king and began visiting the queen at night. She became pregnant and when the king heard about it, he confronted her. She told him what had happened so the king sent her servant to the market again. There the servant found the red woman and brought her back to the palace. Immediately, the king saw her, he recognised her as the Lady Kurukulla. Later the king became very learned, a great scholar, and achieved the siddhis. In this tradition, the king himself wrote the sadhana.
Another tradition says that Kurukulla appeared to Nagarjuna and gave him this sadhana directly.
- Single Auspicious Tara who Accomplishes Aims
This form of Tara is yellow-skinned, and has four faces and eight arms. This sadhana also comes from the sadhanas of “The One Hundred and Eight Names of Tara” composed by Chandragomin.
In summing up, His Holiness told everyone that translations into Chinese and English of all these sadhanas from the “Knowing One Frees All” did exist but were awaiting final checking before publication. It was possible they would be translated into other languages as well.
During the afternoon session there were several fluctuations in the power supply. At one point a power surge caused one of the lights behind His Holiness to explode, showering the stage with glass fragments. His Holiness looked surprised but unperturbed and carried on. Then the central lights began to flicker. Twice the power was cut and the teachings were interrupted. At the end of the session he finished session on a humorous note:
“This is the first time such a thing has ever happened at the Pavilion. Perhaps the Tara who Shakes the World is active.”
An Offering of Meditation and Practice to Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche
Day Three: The Initiations of ‘Knowing One Frees All’
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
22 December, 2014
A dense, opaque fog blankets the holy land of Bodhgaya as morning dawns on the third day of the “Knowing One Frees All” (Chikshey Kundrol) empowerments.
Outside the mandala of the Monlam Pavilion, thousands of people make their way through the cold and misty morning air to join their place in the long queue snaking down the road. Inside the mandala of the Monlam Pavilion, the Praises to Tara resounds, led by the Umzes, half an hour before the empowerments’ scheduled start time. And at the secret heart of the mandala, upstairs in the Monlam Office building behind the Pavilion, the Gyalwang Karmapa once again conducts the preparatory empowerment rituals in the shrine of his private library, hidden from sight.
At 8am gyaling horns herald the Gyalwang Karmapa’s arrival into the pavilion for the start of the morning session. Fresh, warm bread rolls and steaming-hot, sweet tea are distributed to all the participants while they chant the opening Kagyu Lineage Prayer. Wrapped in their thick coats and woollen blankets, the participants purify and offer the tea and bread with both Sanskrit and Tibetan prayers before they enjoy the warm, welcoming breakfast on a particularly cold winter’s morning.
“I would like to tell you a little bit about the reasons and the purposes for giving you the empowerments,” His Holiness explains during the morning session.
2014 is the 25th anniversary of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche’s passing away, as well as the 10th anniversary of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche’s passing away. For this reason it is a very special anniversary year, particularly for the Monlam, since the deceased Kalu Rinpoche and Bokar Rinpoche really had unequalled kindness for the Kagyu Monlam.
Initially we made a plan to have a remembrance of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, and we decided that since they were primarily interested in practice and meditation it would be best to give an offering of the dharma. So therefore the reason for giving these empowerments of “Knowing One Frees All” is to commemorate the anniversaries of these two masters passing away, as well as to make an offering to them of practice and meditation.
The Gyalwang Karmapa launches straight into the opening liturgies of the first empowerment. His hands dance sublimely through the air as he performs the mudras while grasping his sacred vajra and bell; his deep voice chants the melodies and mantras with a sonorous resonance. Throughout the empowerment he communicates in gestures of body, speech, and mind that are exquisite, precise, and potent with tantric symbolism.
Throughout this third day, the Gyalwang Karmapa offers the eight-thousand strong assembly five empowerments – three in the morning session, and two in the afternoon session – beginning with the empowerment of the female deity Great Mother Prajnaparamita.
- Great Mother Prajnaparamita (Yum chen sher phyin ma)
The Gyalwang Karmapa turns first to the prajnaparamita sutras, and explains that many different dharani mantras appear in the long, middle, and short length Prajnaparamita sutras. These include the well-known mantra in the Heart Sutra: TADYATA GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SWAHA.
These dharani mantras were not actually in the tantras, he explains, but when the masters who were preparing the Tibetan Kangyur were arranging the texts, they took these mantras from the sutras and included them as part of the kriya tantra.
The practice of Great Mother Prajnaparamita in fact appears in all the different classes of tantra: kriya, carya, yoga, and anuttara yoga. Therefore we can say that the practice of the Great Mother Prajnaparamita fits within the practice of all the sutras and tantras, and also within all four classes of tantra, so we can actually practice it in accord with each of these different classes.
Next the Gyalwang Karmapa explains that the particular prajnaparamita tradition of this empowerment comes from a female emanation of Prajnaparamita, known as Machig Labdron, a great yogini who achieved accomplishment and siddhi in Tibet.
“There are many who have achieved accomplishment through the tantras, but only Machig Labdron achieved it through the sutras,” he says. “She realized the meaning of the sutras on prajnaparamita and achieved siddhi on this.
“Her primary instructions are on the Chod or severance practice, and what we sever in this practice are the four maras. Within the Chod practice, the creation phase is the meditation on the Great Mother Prajnaparamita.”
The Gyalwang Karmapa explains that the practice relating to the current empowerment descends from Machig Labdron, while the sadhana was composed by the 6th Karmapa, Thongwa Dönden.
- Ushnisha Vijaya (gTsug tor rnam par rgyal ma)
Next the Gyalwang Karmapa offers the empowerment of Ushnisha Vijaya, which is in the tathagata family of the kriya tantras. He explains that the dharani mantra was requested by Avalokiteshvara and taught by Amitabha while he was in the pureland of Sukhavati, as well as by Buddha Shakyamuni. The empowerment has descended from the tradition of the Ocean of Sadhanas by Abhayakara.
- Ushnisha Sitatapatra (‘Phags ma gtsug tor gdugs dkar)
The third empowerment is Ushnisha Sitatapatra, the White Parasol with her large retinue. This is also within the tathagata family of the kriya tantras. The Gyalwang Karmapa explains that within the tathagata family there is the principal of the tathagata family, the master of the family, the mother, the ushnisha, the wrathful male and female deities, the messengers, as well as other aspects of the family for a total of eight, and among these she is the ushnisha of the family. The empowerment is based on a longer sadhana written by the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje.
“This mantra of the white parasol comes from when the Buddha Shakyamuni was in the “heaven of the thirty-three” in meditation. From his ushnisha, the crown protuberance on the top of his head, came the sound of this dharani mantra, which was then included by those who compiled all the tantras,” he says.
- Blazing Ushnisha (gTsug tor ‘bar wa)
Returning after the lunch break, the Gyalwang Karmapa begins the afternoon session with the fourth empowerment for the day, Blazing Ushnisha. The purpose of this initiation is to avert all illness, harm, bad circumstances, bad dreams, obstacles and the various types of sorcery another might cast upon us, he explains. The mantra is in the root tantra of Manjushri. The empowerment is again part of the kriya tantra, included within the ushnisha section of the tathagata family. It was passed down by Abhayakara, from his Ocean of Sadhanas.
- Five Queens of Awareness (Rig pa’i rgyal mo lnga)
The fifth and final empowerment is the Five Queens of Awareness, also known as the Five Protectresses. These five female deities are: Infinite Galaxies, Great Peacock, Shitavana, the Pursuer, and the Holder of Secret Mantra. The sadhana is from the tradition of Abhayakara, and was passed from Buton Rinpoche through several others down to the 6th Karmapa, Thongwa Donden.
Seize the Day
Day Four: The Initiations of ‘Knowing One Frees All’
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
23 December, 2014
At the end of the fourth day, there was a sudden lull as the empowerments, given in such swift rota, came to a halt. Each empowerment follows the same structure. First there is the supplication to receive the profound empowerment, the 7 branch prayer and instruction to arouse bodhicitta, a description of the visualization, the bestowal of body, speech, mind, quality and activity, repetition of the mantra of the deity, and blessing with the torma. Each empowerment ends with a mandala which both closes the last empowerment and serves as an offering for the next one.
As the packed audience relaxed, the Karmapa seized the moment to make a powerful exhortation to the audience.
We have all achieved a precious human body with leisure and resources. Leisure means we are free of the eight states that lack freedom and we have all the resources that come from ourselves and others. We have the facilities that allow us to practise the dharma. We have a great opportunity now and we must not let it go to waste. We must use this precious human body to accomplish great benefit and achieve a great result.
The eight states that lack leisure are the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, barbarians, long-life gods, having wrong views, the dumb and idiots. Because we are free of those eight states we have the eight leisures. If we are free of the eight states that lack leisure but we spend all our time in various busyness, it doesn’t make any difference if we are free of the eight states or not. When we have the leisure we need to use it to accomplish the dharma.
We have all gathered here at the Monlam, whether monastics or lay people. We have everything we need to practise the dharma. It’s all been prepared for us. Having all the facilities to practice the dharma, we may be free of external impediments to practising dharma, but we should think what it means to be free of impediments. Many people lack basic livelihood; they have no clothes to wear, no drinking water, or medical treatment. They have great difficulties. If we compare ourselves to them we can see what it means to have all the facilities to practise. It means we have a particular responsibility to use everything we have. We need to make an effort to help all those beings. For that reason it’s important for us to make an effort to help all those sentient beings who are deprived and keep them in our mind. Sometimes we don’t realize what fortune we have. Only when some unfortunate situation occurs do we realize what an excellent opportunity we have.
It is important for us to have a broader perspective.
- Leaf-Clad Shawari
When the Buddha was staying in Sravasti he taught the dharani mantra, essence mantra, near-essence mantra and root mantra, and many different rituals, to his entourage and the four communities [bhikshus, bhikshunis, male and female lay practitioners]..
It belongs to kriya tantra and, of the three transcendent classes of kriya tantra, it is in the lotus or Padma family. She is considered one of the wrathful deities. However, there are also many different forms of the goddess, leaf clad Shawari, that were taught by the great masters of the past. There are different colours of body and many different numbers of faces and arms. There are some with three faces and six arms, or with one face and four arms.
The lineage comes down from the Buddha, to Manjushri, to the master ‘Victorious over Enemies’,and then to Wangchuk Dorje, the 9th Karmapa, from whom it was passed down through the realization lineage of the Karma Kamtsang.
This is also a kriya tantra. Of the three transcendent families, she is in the Tathagata family. The Tathagata family has eight sections; of these she is in the mother of the family section.
When the Buddha was staying in Śravasti he taught the dharani of Marici to the victors. There are many sadhanas of Marici written by the great masters of India; sixteen sadhanas of Marici are in the” Ocean of Sadhanas” alone. This particular one was written by the 6th Karmapa, Thongwa Donden in accordance with the sadhana found in Acarya Abhayakara’s “Garland of the Perfection of Yogas”.
In degenerate times the goddess Marici is especially beneficial because most yidam deities are difficult to practice; but she is especially strong and powerful in degenerate times. She is followed by Buddhists and non-Buddhists in many lands, including China and Japan. She is well-known in China and practiced by Taoists and others, as well as Buddhists. She is particularly famous amongst warriors. She appears prominently in popular tales of the western armies of the monkey king.
- Armband of the Noble Victory Banner’s Peak
When the Buddha was in the heaven of the thirty-three, there was a war between the gods and demi-gods. The gods lost and Indra was very discouraged and disappointed. So the Buddha taught the dharani mantra of Armband of the Noble Victory Banner’s Peak and then the gods were victorious over the demi-gods.
This is yet again kriya tantra, in the Tathagata family. It is also included within the wrathful female deities.
The lineage was passed down from Abhayakara’s “Ocean of Sadhanas”.
- Goddess Sarasvati
The practice of Sarasvati is praised as being the greatest for removing the darkness of ignorance and unknowing, for developing the light of wisdom, and for being able to write poetry and treatises.
This sadhana of Sarasvati is superior to other sadhanas of Sarasvati. This practice came from Vajradhara to the wisdom dakinis, and then to Rinchen Jungney down to the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje.
- Orange Manjushri with Retinue
The Karmapa began with a story.
In India near Nalanda there lived an old man of ninety-nine years. He felt weary with samsara and thought he needed to achieve buddhahood. He went to see a pandita who lived nearby and asked for help. The pandita said: You are ninety-nine years old. You are too old, you cannot even read.
The old man thought to himself, ‘This is very true, I cannot read and I cannot study the dharma and if I cannot read or study I will not be able to achieve the state of buddhahood’. So he felt very discouraged.
As he sat there, he met a master named Chariot of the Sun, who gave him a practice of Manjushri. He asked, ‘How long will it take me to accomplish the practice?’ The answer was: If you have a karmic connection then you can achieve this in one day. So he took a sword and put it by his table and vowed, ‘If I do not see Manjushri face to face by tomorrow morning I will commit suicide’. He did the practice. The next morning he saw Manjushri who gave him teachings. By the blessings of Manjushri he became like an eight year old boy. He was called Kumaradeva, the youthful wise one. He became well -versed in all areas of knowledge.
Kumaradeva taught it to Pa Dampa Sanjay who then gave it to Machig Labdron, from whom it passed down to the Ninth Karmapa.
In the final empowerment of the day, the Karmapa blessed his Lamas with a special multi-coloured, tiered torma of Manjushri, which resembled an elaborate confection. In both shape and colour, it was very different from the previous tormas used during the empowerments.
”Seven or eight years ago Gyaltsab Rinpoche told me that I should have a torma of Manjushri such as this one,” the Karmapa explained, “ so that’s why I had this torma made.”
Wisdom and Compassion: Manjushri and Avalokiteshvara
Day Five: The Initiations of ‘Knowing One Frees All’
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
24 December, 2014
This fifth day of the empowerments was filled with blessings of various forms of Manjushri, the embodiment of wisdom. The Karmapa also added one of the deities from the following morning as the empowerment then would take some time.
The torma of Manjushri is a special one: the square base comprises sixteen volumes of long, rectangle-shaped texts stacked four by four. They include the twelve volumes of the Prajna Paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) sutras from the words of the Buddha (the Kangyur). The double flaps on the ends of the texts (for writing the titles) create lively rows of squares in brilliant, variegated color.The texts are surmounted by flowers and a pair of doves while above them rises the blue finial of an upright sword, the emblem of Manjushri. The same torma will be used for all of the Manjushri initiations.
- White Manjushri (‘Jam dbyangs dkar po)
The Karmapa explained that there are many different types of wisdom―profound, vast, swift, and great wisdom. He had heard that white Manjushri is the best for developing swift wisdom.The story connected with this deity relates to a master named Jetari Draley Namgyal who had actually seen Manjushri, received teachings from him, and achieved siddhis. One time Manjushri came to him and said, “You are eighty years old now and have only ten years of life left. You need to find a student who is a proper vessel for your teachings.”
With his miraculous powers, Jetari looked around in all directions for a suitable disciple, but could not find one. Finally, he returned to Magadha and there saw a man who was tending water buffaloes. He was seventy years old and decrepit, but Jetari saw that he was worthy, and said to him, “You should come with me and enter the gate of the Dharma.”
The old man replied, “I’m already old and don’t even know how to read. How can I study the Dharma? It’d be better if I became your disciple in the next life. I’m basically finished with this one.” Jetari answered, “No problem. I have a sadhana that will work for you.” He gave the old man the sadhana of Manjushri. After only five days of this practice, the man became a scholar called Mati who knew all the Dharma and traveled to Nalanda where he became a monk. He was also called Norbulingpa.
He said to Jetari, “It was kind of you to take me in as a student, but now I am old and I don’t have any time to teach the Dharma. It would be better for me to practice meditation.”
Jetari replied, “You still have ten years of life left. Manjushri predicted that I would have another ten years of life. Two of those have passed, so I’ll give you the remaining eight years. Now you’ll have a total of eighteen years to teach the Dharma and benefit beings. If you pray to your special deity, you could live even longer than that.” Jetari then passed away and his pandita student spent many years teaching.
As for the lineage of the practice, the pandita gave these instructions to a student who gave them to the great pandita Shakya Shri,who came to Tibet at the invitation of the translator Tropu Lotsawa. At that time, the Tibetans thought that all Indians were very wise and that it was impossible for the Tibetans to compare with them in terms of wisdom.So the Translator Tropu asked Shakya Shri to give instructions that would increase wisdom. Shakya Shri replied that he had an ocean of instructions and among them was a special one called the “Chapter on Manjushri”.The translator requested the instruction, but Shakya Shri said, “I must now go to Nepal. If you come along with me,I’ll give you the teaching.”So they went together to Nepal where Tropu Lotsawa received the instructions on Manjushri. Thus the lineage comes from Manjushri to Jetari, to Pandita Mati, to the Junior Norbu Lingka, to Shakya Shri and on to the Ninth Karmapa.
- Namasangiti Manjushri, Reciting the Names of Manjushri (‘Jam pal mtshan yang dag par brjod pa)
When the Buddha taught the Dharma wheels of the secret mantravajrayana, he taught many Dharmas. This form of Manjushri is from the unexcelled yoga tantra, which is divided into mother, father, and non-dual tantras. Reciting the Names of Manjushri belongs to the father tantra, which emphasizes skillful means, and within the six families of the father tantras― Akshobhya, Vairocana, Amoghasiddhi, Amitabha, Ratnasambhava, and Vajradhara―it belongs to the family of Vairocana. Within this family, there are two divisions: Mayajala (Net of Illusion) and Yamantaka, and this text belongs to the former. The root text of Mayajala is in sixty thousand verses, and one of its chapters is known as ”The Net of Samadhi”, within which we find “Reciting the Names of Manjushri”.
Some Indian scholars say that this text belongs to the non-dual tantras, where means and wisdom are not separated, because thought resembles that of the Kalachakra, which is categorized as a non-dual tantra. Some explain it in terms of the yoga tantra.”The Treasury of Kagyu Instructions” contains a practice called Jamyang Sungden, which belongs to one of the seven mandala cycles of Ngok Choku Dorje, a disciple of Marpa Lotsawa.
There are many different versions of this practice, and the one being given is from Abhayakara’s ”Ocean of Sadhanas”. Taking this as a basis, the Sixth Karmapa Tongwa Dönden composed a practice in which a central Manjushri is surrounded by yidam deities from other families.
- Manjushri the Lion of Speech (‘Jam pal smra seng)
There is no official story for this initiation. The Karmapa believes that it belongs to the same story as that of the Orange Manjushri and the old man from India who put a sword by his pillow and vowed to kill himself if he did not see Manjushri by the morning. These days,it would be difficult to realize Manjushri by just putting a sword by our pillow. Many causes and conditions need to coalesce for realization to happen: we need great capabilities, good fortune, proper instructions, deep faith, and so forth.
In the life stories of realized masters from the past, we find accounts of incredible feats that we cannot imitate. They are quite amazing, like the story of the great siddha Telopa hitting Naropa with his shoe whereby Naropa received the wisdom of the empowerment. These days, we cannot empower people by slapping them with a sandal. There are many politicians who get shoes thrown at them but they do not receive wisdom this way.When we look at the life stories of past masters, we can see the immense efforts they made in practice. If we went through the austerities and made all the effort they did, then if we were hit with a shoe, we might develop the wisdom of the Buddha. But nowadays, we just expect something to be put on top of our heads and thereby receive the empowerment.
The Karmapa concluded by speaking of a meeting with the organizers of Kagyu Monlam the night before. The discussion revolved around how to give the empowerment to everyone on the last day. Should people file by the Karmapa? (What some of the organizers suggested.) Or should he come down from the throne and walk among people? (What he wanted to do.) It has not yet been decided.
- Manjushri Arapacha (‘Jam dpal A ra pa tsa)
The Gyalwang Karmapa begins the afternoon session with the Manjushri Arapacha empowerment. He explains that Manjushri is the embodiment of the prajna or wisdom of all the buddhas, in the form of a deity.
“If we want to realize the profound meaning of emptiness then it is important for us to request the blessings of Manjushri,” he says.
Actually, when we study texts on the Middle Way, if we want it to be more than just mere letters and words, if we want to actually develop realisation of the meaning of these in our being, then we need to pray to Manjushri. Only then will we be able to develop realisation.
We need these blessings in order to develop quick and sharp prajna. A sharp wisdom which is not just sharp intelligence—rather, this is the sharp discernment that can discriminate among the different types of dharmas. It is Manjushri’s special power and activity to bring us that ability.
The Karmapa continued to say that these days our faculties are getting duller and our thoughts are proliferating. On the outside, it seems as if people are getting smarter. They always have more questions to ask: What’s reason? What’s the essence? It seems as if they are asking very deep and sharp questions. Yet if we really think about it, we just have more and more thoughts, but we never come to their end and eliminate our doubts. Instead our doubts keep growing and we don’t get to the bottom of anything. It’s just one thought after another.
When we look at people from older times, it might seem as if they don’t know how to do anything. Yet when it comes down to it, they had no doubt about the main points of the view and so they had certain comfort in their mind. But we these days never find that sort of comfort―we are always entertaining doubts and worrying about something.
So we’re just following after the words and thoughts, one leading to the next. We use a lot of logic and never plumb the depths. It’s only if we are able to receive the blessings of our lamas, the buddhas and the bodhisattvas that we can develop loving-kindness, compassion, and devotion―only then will we be able to see the nature of things directly.
- Manjushri the Lion’s Roar (‘Jam dpal senggesgra)
The second empowerment for the afternoon session is Manjushri the Lion’s Roar, for which His Holiness does not give an explanation. This empowerment was also passed down by the Indian master Abhayakara.
- Four-Armed Avalokiteshvara
Originally scheduled for the following day, His Holiness next gives the Four-Armed Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig) empowerment, an extra addition to the afternoon’s schedule.
“It shouldn’t be necessary to give an introduction to Chenrezig because everyone knows it,” he says. “But this particular practice is one that Padmasambhava hid as a treasure and then was later revealed by the great Mahasiddha Ngodrup. Then it was passed down to the 6th Karmapa, Thongwa Dönden.”
Gyalwang Karmapa Blesses More Than 10,000 people
Day Six: The Initiations of ‘Knowing One Frees All’
Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
25 December, 2014
The Karmapa arrived in a ceremonial silk chögu, which draped in glistening folds over his robes. Once he was seated on the throne, however, it was quickly concealed by a heavy woollen cloak . Around his neck he wore a maroon muffler to protect his throat and chest. Even though the sides of the pavilion had been hung with heavy Tibetan door cloths, a chilly draught swept across the stage, and the butter lamps on the golden shrine guttered uncertainly. The unusually cold, wintry weather was continuing across North India.
This morning was the last of the Chikshey Kundrol initiations, so celebratory sweet rice was served as well as bread and butter tea. From his throne, the Karmapa watched the distribution of rice and tea carefully, to ensure that everyone was served and no one left out before he began the morning’s empowerments. Then he began.
- Single Amitāyus
His Holiness gave the medium length form of the initiation: the body, speech, mind, qualities and activities of Amitayus, with the torma empowerment.
Amitayus is red with one face and two arms, holding a vase which contains the nectar of immortality and wisdom.
Though all of the buddhas of the three times are equal in their power of compassion and have the ability to bestow the siddhi of long life, His Holiness explained, it is Amitayus who is praised as supreme in this respect. The Lord Buddha himself taught Manjushri this mantra of the ‘Sound of the Drum of Deathlessness’, which came from the world realm Immeasurable Quality. The Buddha there Immeasurable Infinite Life and Wisdom said that the life of anyone who recites the 108 mantras of the 108 names of the Buddha will be lengthened. Based on this dharani, the Indian Mahasiddha Jetari composed a sadhana of the nine deities of Amitayus.[The other eight identical forms which surround Amitayus in the mandala are east Vajra Amitayus, south Ratna Amitayus, west Padma Amitayus, north Karma Amitayus, northeast Avaloka Amitayus, southeast Guna Amitayus, southwest Jnana Amitayus, and northwest Achala Amitayus.]
Padmasambhava accomplished this practice with his consort Mandarava. Later she, in the form of Machik Drupey Gyalmo [Queen of Siddhas], taught Milarepa’s disciple Rechungpa, who brought the practice to Tibet. The Sixth Karmapa Thongwa Dönden composed an outer, inner and secret practice of Amitayus which is the tradition of the empowerment given today. The order of the initiations had been changed, and now the Amitayus initiation fell on the last day. His Holiness expressed his hope that this would be an auspicious omen and blessing that everyone present would have a long life and be protected from untimely death.
- Single Maitreya
The last initiation of the 24 deities in the Chikshey Kundrol was that of the Protector Maitreya. First Gyalwang Karmapa gave the background and lineage of the empowerment.
When Shakyamuni descended from the Tushita Heaven he requested Maitreya to be his regent. Maitreya is one of the great bodhisattvas and will become the fifth Buddha of this world. The lineage of the empowerment comes from the great Indian master Abhayakara Gupta’s text “Ocean of Sadhanas”, explained the Karmapa.
“When the Protector Maitreya comes to this world as the future buddha, it is my prayer and aspiration that all of us gathered here will have the fortune to encounter his teachings,” the Karmapa said. “I think that if everyone here generates as much pure perception and faith as they are able, it will definitely happen.”
I think this is a very good connection. For that reason when I give the Maitreya empowerment I will try to place the torma on the heads of everyone here. The most important thing is our aspiration. During the time of the buddha there were many students who, because of the power of previous aspirations, were able to meet the buddha, receive dharma teachings and serve him. For that reason it is our aspiration that is most important.
His Holiness then gave the empowerment in the short form, as time was limited.
After the conclusion of the empowerment, there was a magnificent body, speech and mind, qualities and activities long-life mandala offering to His Holiness, led by Karma Khenchen Rinpoche, the principal organiser of the event, and Lama Choedrak, the CEO of the International Monlam. They were accompanied by Rigdzin Gyatson Rinpoche, the main sponsor of the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo. The offerings included large statues of Ushnisha Vijaya, White Tara and Amitayus, all long-life deities. Following, came others connected with the Kagyu Monlam as well as representatives of all the administrations of the various Rinpoches and monasteries present, bearing more traditional gifts: Buddhist texts, a set of robes, rolls of colourful silk brocades, huge bags of barley, money offerings and so forth. Bringing up the rear was an eighty-five year old Tibetan, clad in white, and symbolising long life.
There was then a short break during which everyone recited Maitreya’s aspiration
The assembly of more than 10,000* people waited to see what would happen next. How could Gyalwang Karmapa fulfil his promise to offer the torma empowerment to everyone? Very few knew that late the night before, His Holiness had visited the pavilion and devised a plan.
The Gyalwang Karmapa returned to the throne and from there directed the staff to divide the people in the huge auditorium into sets of opposing rows, two-deep, with a walking space between.
Taking up the Maitreya torma, he first blessed the Rinpoches and Khenpos on the stage. Then he descended the steps into the huge auditorium. Followed and preceded by an entourage of security personnel and attendants, the Karmapa began at the centre and made his way to the left of the Pavilion first. Walking down the rows of devotees, he blessed those on the left- side of the row. Returning up the rows, he blessed those on the right-side of the row.
Everyone was deeply affected by the great kindness that His Holiness showed in this effort to include everybody in the last empowerment. Swiftly and tirelessly, he moved up and down the rows, touching the crown of people’s heads with the Maitreya torma in his right hand, while ceaselessly ringing a ritual bell with his left. Some were completely overwhelmed and wept. Other faces shone with happiness.
Nearly two hours later, as the Karmapa returned to the throne to perform the completion rituals for the empowerment, the assembly clapped and cheered. The completion of the empowerments with a final demonstration of the authentic Lama’s great compassion and loving kindness had been an extraordinary and unprecedented Christmas gift for all.
*More than ten thousand people were officially registered as participants in the Chikshey Kundrol, and many more had arrived on the day without registering, so the unofficial estimate of those present is 11,000.